Timing Test Results
|Sony has created an impressive ultra-compact digicam that is blazing fast. The WX10 boasts a vast array of exposure settings and options, whether fully automatic or manual, along with some one of a kind 3D and Panorama type modes. While we did find a few disappointments, at just $279 US, the WX10 has a lot to offer. |
Pick This Up If...
|You are looking for a pocket camera with all the latest options, that is robust, yet easy to operate. |
If you enjoy your current point-and-shoot camera, but realize that it is somewhat out of date, then you most likely would not only want a replacement, but some upgrades as well. This year, Sony bulks up a traditional W-series point-and-shoot consumer camera with the DSC-WX10. The camera upgrades from a rocker style zoom control for a dial around the shutter release, a professional quality Sony G 7x optical zoom lens, Superior Auto, 3D options, and full 1080i HD movie capture to name a few. Further, the WX10 still retains a compact size; about the same size as most other point-and-shoot cameras. Despite a touchy zoom and mostly unavailing Superior auto mode, the WX10 maintains as a competitive digicam with a sleek design, great utilization of space for the control layout, simple menu interface, upgraded optical zoom, and easy-to-use Manual and Program modes.
Sony's ambitions with the WX10 seem to aim for a beefed up compact point-and-shoot digicam. The frame is almost the size of a deck of cards, and with its combination of smooth corners and straight edges, it resembles the look of a sports car. Whereas the face keeps a minimalistic approach to style, the back is cramped with controls. Even though a little cramped, it is well-received given the WX10's great utilization of space which is required for it to be as compact as it is. Sony employs the mode dial, however convenient; the dial is rather flat and tricky to turn. The mode dial offers 8 modes: iAuto, Superior Auto, Program, Manual, Sony's iSweep Panorama, Movie, 3D, and Scene modes. Besides the slippery fingers trying to traverse the mode dial, switching between the modes brings you to a short (and sometimes annoying) description scene, which creates a slow toggle between modes. However, we found this default setting can be turned off in settings (recommended), or can be bypassed by simply pressing the 'Select' button. The WX10 also offers a rotating 4-way control dial, making ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and exposure adjustment a breeze in Manual mode. This helpful feature shows the adjustments in real time on the live feed for easily getting the desired settings. The placement and the labeling of the other buttons are clearly identified. The playback button also doubles as a power button, eliminating a step to view photos if the camera is off. A separate movie button, marked by the logical 'Rec' symbol, is slightly out of the norm, but good nonetheless. There was initially confusion with the use of the separate movie button, which could have been possibly avoided if I would have taken time to seek help through the In-Camera guide. The guide can be very helpful if you lose or forget the manual, or if you prefer to learn from a hands on approach. Finally, the WX10 is still compact and lightweight enough to take pictures with one hand. Plus, the mode dial makes it possible to change shooting modes with one hand as well. The fact that this is possible is outstanding, given the shooting capabilities of this digicam.
Zooming on the WX10 is very touchy - one small change causes an extreme reaction. Making use of a dial zoom around the shutter release, the 7x optical G lens zoom (26-182mm for the 35mm equivalent) requires steady fingers and a lot of practice. Whether zooming in or out, the control requires a long twist before any zooming actually occurs, and because you are already naturally applying quite a bit of pressure on the control, the zoom jumps further than anticipated. Thus, not only necessitating you to become familiar with its sensitive disposition, but also entailing the need for steady fingers. Sony has included a toggle between Smart and Precise digital zoom (or off completely) for the WX10. While the Smart zoom made it more problematic to capture precise frames, it also amplified the touchy zoom previously discussed. I found exact framing manageable once I turned digital zoom to either 'Precise' or off in the settings menu. This setting is my recommendation given the camera's already challenging zoom control.
The main reason the button layout may seem slightly cramped, is because the WX10 offers a 2.8-inch LCD, which is about two tenths of an inch smaller than that of what other compact cameras offer. With Sony's Clear Photo LCD Plus display trademark (a term for an anti-reflective coating for a "sharp display"), the LCD packs an awesome 460,000 dots; an improvement over the usual 230,000 dots found on other digicams of its size. Aside from collecting greasy fingerprints from the ballparks' hotdogs, the LCD was very easy to see in the bright sunlight. It also helps that the brightness can be adjusted in settings. The display can also be viewed up to 80° in all directions. It should be noted that the clear cover over the screen was rather easily scratched. I carried this camera in a bag along with two other point-and-shoot cameras, and that alone produced minor scratches on the cover. Moving along, I also enjoyed the HUD (Heads Up Display) on the live feed, such as the exposure setting scale and histogram in Manual mode.
The WX10 makes it extremely easy to customize your shot using Manual mode, even for a novice. The HUD in this mode will display (if you have the detailed info on for the display) the current ISO, noise reduction, and aperture, as well as a histogram and numerical value showing the current exposure value. These settings can in turn be easily adjusted by simply using the 'Select' button to traverse, and the control ring around the 4-way directional pad dial for adjustments. I was having fun capturing customizable sepia tone shots in Manual mode after only minutes of first picking up the camera.
Of course Sony has included the iAuto feature, which is handily located on the mode dial. If you are unfamiliar with iAuto, it is an intelligent shooting mode that perceptively chooses the appropriate settings for you. iAuto thinks for you by recognizing scenes, lighting, and faces to adjust exposure settings. The WX10 iAuto also incorporates iSCN technology that determines what type of image you are trying to capture, and within 1/30th of a second it automatically places the camera in that scene mode, including macro. While it was expedient for iAuto to put the camera in macro mode for close up shots, I found that there is no way to manually put the WX10 in macro imaging mode. This was very upsetting, especially when I wanted to manually perfect my shot on a frog but couldn't. I was forced to use iAuto, and was limited to when "the camera" decided it was a macro shot. This could potentially be a deal breaker to those of you that prefer full control of your camera.
Unique with the WX10 is Sony's Superior Auto mode. Sony explains what makes Superior Auto more "superior" to iAuto, is its ability to capture up to 6 shots "with greater clarity, optimum dynamic range using backlight correction HDR technology and lower image noise using 6 shots layering technology". This mode can be accessed straight through the mode dial, and is represented by a gold icon. My experience using this mode has brought me to one simple conclusion - the images look no better than regular iAuto, and it takes longer to process. After capturing an image in Superior, there is a short wait time so the camera can process the image(s). Thus, if I am at most getting only slightly better image quality by sacrificing shutter lag time, I personally would opt for iAuto mode.
Also included on the mode dial is Sony's super easy to use iSweep Panorama mode. Sony has corned the technology on panoramic shooting with its ability to capture non-choppy, continuous images the first time you use it. By giving you on-screen instructions, just a clean and smooth motion produces great images. You can toggle between taking panoramic shots either vertically, horizontally, and even create "High Resolution" sweeps at up to 42-megapixels. High resolution instructs you to turn the camera vertically before sweeping the shot, giving the image a vertical and horizontal extension. This feature took me a couple of times because I was either sweeping too slow or too fast- giving me an error-like screen and making me start over. While still cool, the HR Panorama feature is a little particular and might cause you to lose a candid panoramic shot.
With the combination of the mode dial and logically organized menus, the WX10 presents fantastic ease of use. Formally mentioned, the mode dial makes switching modes fast and easy for the user. Further, the menu settings organize basic to more customizable options, depending on which mode the camera is currently in. In all modes, the menu is not only logically arranged, but also easy to see and understand with picturesque icons, consistency in order and color, and short descriptions of each option. In iAuto mode, the WX10 facilitates adjustments on still image size, exposure value (aka EV Compensation), burst shooting, iSCN sensitivity, smile shutter toggle, smile detection sensitivity, face detection, movie quality, movie steady shot toggle, and camera settings. Program and Manual modes provide even further adjustments such as ISO, white balance, white balance shift, focus, metering, bracket setting, color mode (black and white, sepia, etc), saturation, contrast, and sharpness. Next, the menu options for playback mode provide some image editing (crop, red eye, unsharp masking, and rotation), playback and viewing options, and my favorite: image lock. I personally like this feature, because I have accidentally deleted photos by pressing the wrong button in the past. With image lock (aka Protect), you have the ability to lock your images to prevent this unfortunate occurrence from happening.
We have mixed feelings about the WX10's image quality. Superior Auto and iAuto offer the best looking photos by far, however like we've already mentioned you can't see a huge difference between the two; as least we didn't. At fullscreen viewing sizes (approx. 20-30% depending on the size of your monitor), the images from the WX10 look great. Photos look full of sharp details, and colors are very pleasing; however, not exactly natural. Exposures are a bit on the strong side at times, which caused blown out highlights often. On the flip side, shadow details are pretty good, so it looks as though Sony has chosen to sacrifice some highlight quality for increased details in darker areas of the photograph. Where we were disappointed with the WX10's image quality was with noise. When critically viewing photos at 100%, you can see a great deal of noise; even at the lowest ISO 100 setting. We saw similar noise with the H70, and again when viewing at 100%, you can see some smudging and fine detail loss due to heavy noise and processing. At times, it can even look like a watercolor painting. While this is a let down for us, this does not necessarily mean that you, the average consumer, will have any problems with the WX10's image quality. With the average 4x6-inch photo, or even a 13x19-inch enlargement, you'll likely not see any of the artifacts we are seeing on our PC screen with the images blown up 1:1.
Recording movies with the WX10 is easier than ever. With the ability to film in 1080i full HD AVCHD or 720p MPEG-4 format, your movies will look great on your flatscreen TV or YouTube. Like mentioned earlier, the WX10 is equipped with a separate movie button on the back controls, thus making recording movies simple by mashing the movie button (no matter which mode you are currently in). Then, when you are done recording, the camera automatically switches to whichever still image mode it was previously in. Additionally, with a separate button, you are able to capture images while recording by pressing the shutter release. For some, it may be baffling that you must press the movie button to start the recording, not the shutter release. I missed some good videos when I first picked up this camera because I was hitting the shutter release instead of the rear mounted Movie rec button. Again, this could have been avoided if I would have made good use of the in-camera guide. Lastly, the stereo microphones provided on the WX10 for recording audio, like other digicams, are very sensitive. So, it's likely that they will pick up acoustics more near to the microphones themselves; therefore, be conscience of your shooting environment.
Bottom line - Sony's Cyber-Shot DSC-WX10 is an impressive ultra-compact camera that is loaded with Sony's "best of breed" technologies. Sporting a super fast 16-megapixel Exmor R CMOS image sensor combined with their BIONZ processor, the WX10 is blazing fast. Options like Superior Auto, iSweep Panorama, 3D, and 3D sweep set it apart from most any other point-n-shoot in its price range. While we did have some issues with image quality, along with some other dislikes, overall we enjoyed using the WX10. With a street price of $279 US or less, the WX10 offers great bang for your buck.
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